Monday, April 14, 2008

Welcoming Winners in Wicked Weather

Last Tuesday, our incredible KU basketball team came home from San Antonio the day after winning the national championship. Despite the cold and gloomy weather, when they arrived at Memorial Stadium, there were approximately 25,000 cheering fans to greet them. Because I work for a KU affiliate, our office excused us so that we could attend the welcome home celebration without using any leave time, which was nice since I was going to go regardless! My friend Leigh Ann and I drove over and met some other friends from the office at the event, where we had to sit in the cold for almost an hour before the players actually arrived. BRRR!

The ceremony was supposed to start at 3:00, so we arrived at about 2:30 and flooded into the stadium with hordes of other people. To entertain the masses, the video board was playing the championship game from the night before, thankfully without the commercials. We didn't pay too much attention at first, but as the minutes ticked off the clock the crowd started to take notice of the action. People began cheering as if it was live and as if they didn't know what was going to happen, which was pretty funny! Everyone would groan at a bad call or make swish noises with the free throws, and people just got more and more into it as the end of the game neared. When Mario made the three pointer, the entire group of 25,000 jumped up and were screaming and yelling like it had just happened! It was really pretty comical, but also very fun. By the end of the overtime it was close to 3:30, but watching the end of the game got the fans significantly pumped up just in time for the arrival of the players and coaches! I caught their arrival on video, and although you can't really see much, you can get an idea of the wonderful welcome they received!

For the next hour or so we watched speeches from the governor, A.D., Chancellor, Coach Self, Danny Manning, and every one of the players who actually saw significant playing time this year. You can actually watch all the speeches online at if you didn't get a chance to see them. Thankfully they were all pretty short and sweet. You should check it out just to see the amazing (and obviously well-deserved) reception that Mario received from the crowd. It was so awesome and very touching. They were all just so darn cute and I'm still just so darn proud of all of them!

So despite the fact that we were pretty miserably cold and poor Leigh Ann's feet were frozen by the end, I'm still really glad we went. Although the traffic was absolutely horrendous getting back to the office, the good thing was since it took us so long we ended up not arriving until it was time to go home! :)

Yesterday was an even bigger and better welcome celebration, as just about the entire city of Lawrence gathered downtown for a victory parade for the team. My friend Paula and I had a baby shower to go to in the early afternoon that was near downtown, so after the shower we just decided to walk across the bridge and get ourselves a good seat for the parade. Although the weather was much improved from last week, the wind was still pretty darn cold and it wasn't too comfortable when the sun went behind the clouds! There were already thousands of people lining the streets when we arrived, but we found a pretty good empty spot atop a big planter. Paula went and bought a stadium blanket and we laid it out to save our spot, and these nice people who'd set up shop nearby offered to watch it for us so we could go find something to eat, so we set off on a mission to get some food.

Scoring lunch didn't exactly go so well, since the line at just about every restaurant was insanely long. We ended up browsing the KU apparel at (which has a lot of cute stuff, by the way) and then having a drink at Fatso's while we waited. The three o'clock hour finally neared, so we headed back to our spot, where Chad joined us along with some other friends. We thought our seats were going to be so great, and then about another thousand people piled up in rows in front of us. Some gargantuan guy stood up in a truck next to us, partially blocking our view. I've never seen so many people in one place--it was crazy! The estimates are between 80,000 and 100,000 people, and the population of the entire city is only about 88,000! Despite the fact that the crowd in front of us was massive, I still managed to get quite a few good pictures which I'm kind of excited about! Check out the slideshow!

I'm too tired to put captions with all of them tonight, but those of you who care will already know who the people are! For the whole parade story and lots more pictures, you can check out the Journal-World, as usual!


amber said...

I see that you got particularly excellent pictures of Big D! :) My dear husband saw him in his building yesterday, but refrained from getting his autograph for you...

kjl said...

Well, I'll admit that DJ is my favorite player, but I think there must have been a slow down of the motorcade or something when he went by! I don't know how I got so many!